How Does The U.S. Army Expect To Hide A Giant Warehouse Full Of Weapons From China?

How Does The U.S. Army Expect To Hide A Giant Warehouse Full Of Weapons From China?

How Does The U.S. Army Expect To Hide A Giant Warehouse Full Of Weapons From China?

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As the Chinese military grows more powerful, the U.S. military—the Army in particular—needs a new strategy for deterring China.

The new strategy should include secret stores of weaponry, according to RAND, a California think-tank with close ties to the U.S. military.

“Because China probably will be able to contest all domains of conflict across the broad swath of the region by the mid-2030s, the U.S. Army, as part of the joint force, will need to be able to respond immediately to crises or contingencies at various points of contention,” RAND explained in an August report.

“To be ‘inside the wire’ at the outset of a crisis or conflict will require a combination of forward-based forces, light and mobile expeditionary forces and interoperable allied forces.”

For decades, the Army’s expeditionary forces—that is, U.S.-based troops who travel quickly and on short notice to distant battlefields—have relied in part on the service’s so-called “Army prepositioned stocks,” or APS, to kit up for the fighting.

The Army has five major sets of prepositioned equipment. APS-1 is in the United States. APS-2 is at Camp Darby in Italy. APS-3 is stashed inside transport ships in Charleston, South Carolina, and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Camp Carroll in South Korea along with Camp Sagami and Yokohama in Japan host APS-4. The fifth and final APS is at Camp Arifjan and a naval base in Kuwait plus Camp As Saliyah in Qatar.

Together, the five APS sets hold around a million pieces of equipment.

Realistically, only the afloat APS-3 and the Japan portions of APS-4 are useful in a war with China—and those only barely so, as the six Large-Medium Speed Roll-On Roll-Off ships storing APS-3 would need to travel thousands of miles to reach the western Pacific.

Worse, APS-3 is a set of weapons, vehicles, ammunition, and supplies to support a heavy armored brigade with hundreds of M-1 tanks, M-2 fighting vehicles, artillery, and trucks. It’s hard to imagine how a brigade like that might be useful in an island-hopping maritime conflict.

The Army knows it needs to reconfigure its prepositioned stocks if they’re going to play any meaningful role in a war with China. The service is “working on ways to expand APS out in the Pacific,” Gen. Gus Perna, the head of Army Materiel Command, told reporters in February.

To prepare for war in the Pacific, RAND recommended the Army focus on air-defense, anti-ship strikes with mobile rocket-launchers and electronic warfare—all capabilities that could allow the Army to support the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines and U.S. Air Force in defending against, and rolling back, Chinese eastward across the Pacific.

To that end, the Army could swap out tanks for rocket-launchers and radio-jamming gear in an existing, or new, APS set—and position that set within easy reach of China’s maritime frontier.

But there’s a problem, RAND warned. People’s Liberation Army planners know all about the U.S. Army’s prepositioned equipment. And it’s prepared to blow up warehouses and sink ships to prevent the Army from matching troops with stored equipment.

“To disrupt U.S. basing and supply chains, the PLA could employ … long-range missile systems … to cut runways or attack ships, as well as destroy base defenses,” RAND noted. “Unmanned aerial vehicles and other systems could support these operations by conducting [surveillance] missions as well as strikes and battle damage assessment.”

The Army could thwart attacks by investing in “expeditionary logistics, to include clandestine prepositioning in theater.” In other words, it could set up secret warehouses and quietly position ships full of equipment.

The question is … how? APS sets are just about the least subtle aspects of Army expeditionary planning. Roll-on, roll-off ships are huge at a thousand feet long and 100 feet wide. The warehouses you’d need to store an APS set on land also are huge.

The new warehouse that holds most of the APS-4 gear is 350,000 square feet in area, making it the biggest warehouse the Army owns. Building and maintaining the facility took years of planning and negotiations with the South Korean government. How could the Army establish a similar facility, but secretly, in—say—Australia, The Philippines, or Singapore?

The RAND analysts hinted at one possible approach. The Army should deploy “smaller, more-lethal units” in order to dodge Chinese missile attacks during wartime. If the units are smaller, their prepositioned stocks could be smaller, too.

Tiny, unassuming cargo ships. Modest warehouses. Scattered all over the Pacific region. Those could be harder for China to spot.

 

This article was written by David Axe from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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